by Fasika Fikadu

Ethiopian vegan dishes

Ethiopian vegan dishes

Veganism is a recently very hip and trendy culture. It’s safe to say, it has taken over the world. The main reason people are adopting this diet is because of the health benefits. But here, in Ethiopia veganism is a deeply religious experience tied to the Ethiopian Orthodox and Catholic Churches. The rest of the world calls it veganism; we call it “Ts’om”.

It’s a period of reflection, where you would distance yourself from things you have become accustomed to. It’s a great time to test your character and will, to also share in the suffering Jesus went through. like lent, but rather than being practiced only during Easter, it’s practiced throughout the year, it’s like surrendering the flesh to the soul, making the will of the flesh so weak that the strength of the soul rises. Another way to look at it is that the flesh would be too weak to sin.

Say you normally eat three times a day, during Ts’om some would fast from morning till 3pm or 6m, just after the “Kidasse” (A religious service conducted according to liturgy) is over, and when you eat, you will eat with abstinence from all meat and dairy products, like a vegan diet.

Isn’t there something about self-denial that just makes the spirits grow? You tend to keep away from bad habits, even that harmless glass of wine you would lightly drink after work. Instead you consider the less fortunate. “The eye is kept from seeing, the mouth from speaking and the ear from hearing evil things.” (mt. 5:21-30; Yared-Digua)

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church has its own laws and instructions of fasting; accordingly there are seven fasting periods

throughout the year.

  1. The Great Fast or Lent
    This is the fast Jesus Christ fasted for forty days and nights after getting baptized. It is practiced following his example. From March (Hidar) 07- April (Miyazia) 30. It’s also considered to be the greatest for two reasons: It is the Lord’s fast; and through this fast it is thought Satan’s appeal of love of money, greed, deceitfulness and arrogance are overcome.
  2. Wednesday and Fridays
    Every week of Wednesday and Friday is considered as a fasting day with few exceptions. (During the fifty days between Easter and Pentecost, and during the days of Christmas and Epiphany). Wednesday is the day the Jewish council made a consultation to crucify Jesus Christ on Friday. We fast on this day remembering his death sentence. Friday is the day where Jesus Christ was crucified and the hope of salvation fulfilled. We fast in remembrance of that date.
  3. Nineveh
    The reason behind this fast is that the people of Nineveh were saved from the wrath of God through prayers and fasting. This is a three day fast; Monday Tuesday and Wednesday. It falls once in January and again in February.
  4. Gehad
    This fast falls on the eves of Christmas and Epiphany, only. If one of these holidays falls on a Wednesday or Friday, the day of fasting will be on Tuesday or Thursday.
  5. The Fast of the Prophets or Advent
    It starts on November (Hidar) 15 and goes up to December (Tahisas) 28.this fast is practiced before Christmas celebrations, following the examples of the prophets who were fasting and praying in their time wishing upon the arrival of Christ.
  6. The Fast of the Apostles
    This fast was practiced after the apostles were encircled by the Holy Spirit and set out to proclaim the Gospel. It starts from the day right after White Sunday. Sometimes it goes past forty days and sometimes it’s as short as thirty days.
  7. The Fast of the Ascension of the Holy Virgin Mary
    This fast lasts 15 days from August (Nehassie) 1 to 15 in remembrance of the Apostles that went for a retreat and fasted for two weeks, praying to God to reveal this mystery to them. After learning the departure of Mother Mary while they were taking her body for burial at Gethsemani, the Jewish priests dispersed them. Here, the Angels took her body to paradise and put in under the Tree of Life.

Now that you know enough about the Ethiopian fasting process, May I interest you in a variety of authentic vegan Ethiopian dishes?

Let’s start with my personal favorite,

Ethiopian fasting dishes

Ethiopian fasting dishes

  • Misr Wott (red lentils stew)– is a delicious and wonderfully tinted mixture of split red lentils slow cooked with spicy berbere powder, onions garlic and oil (vegetable or olive) (Depending on the ingredients, it may be look lighter or darker)
  • Shiro Wott (ground chickpea powder-based stew) – is a mouth-watering dish slow-cooked with Ethiopia’s spicy berbere powder, oil, onions, garlic and ginger (you can include or leave out spices as you like). There are several kinds of Shiro to enjoy, from the thin soup-like shiro wott called Shiro Feses to the thick Shiro wott called shiro Tegamino.
  • Gomen (stewed collard greens) – This is a scrumptious healthy dish of stewed collard greens packed with vitamins, usually slow-cooked with olive oil and garlic.
  • Fosolia (string beans) – another delightfully healthy and flavored dish cooked with string beans often sautéed with oil, carrots and onions.
  • Shimbra Assa (Spicy Chickpea Stew) – A beautifully colored seasoned dish cooked with chickpea flour is shaped into small dumplings and gets sautéed with a berere sauce, onions and oil.
  • Alicha Kik(yellow split pea stew)– split pea often slow-cooked to perfection with a light turmeric sauce. Alicha are non-spicy dishes that vary depending on the exact spices and uniformity of the lentils and sauce.
  • Ye’Ts’Om Beyaynetu (the vegan platter) – is a combination platter with a delicious mix of mostly lentils, vegetable stews and collard greens. The mixed Ethiopian vegan plate offers a little bit of everything with incredibly tasty variety. The flavors and ingredients are unbelievably delicious together.

Between the ambiance the feel and tradition, eating Ethiopian food after a long fasting day is very rewarding and colorful. If you haven’t had the Ethiopian vegan cuisine before, I hope you get inspired to experiment. With the deep fasting experience and the mouth-watering cuisine, life can’t get any better!


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